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Fall arrived with warm sunshine and brilliantly colored leaves – a Midwest autumn, not at all like the typical cold, rainy and dreary fall of the Pacific Northwest.  September had been gorgeous, and while the grass was a bit brown, the colorful leaves were in perfect shape for raking into piles and throwing in the air.  Isaac and I took advantage of the unexpected weather and my early maternity leave to work through a pre-baby bucket list: picking berries, making apple cobbler, walks in the woods, watching a salmon fight its way upstream, the all-important visit to the pumpkin farm, and our (his) first taste of apple cider, caramel apples, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

The pumpkin farm – that was a close one.

“The leaves are red!  It’s fall!  The baby is coming!  It will bring you a present!  We will go to the pumpkin farm!!!”  Back when we broke the news of the baby in mommy’s tummy, the changing of the leaves seemed like a good way to answer our soon-to-be 2 year old’s question of when the baby would come out.  It seemed like less of a good idea when the leaves actually began to change, and Isaac excitedly announced the baby coming about 5 times a day for close to a month.  And given that the baby’s arrival was all wrapped up in the wonder of a visit to the pumpkin farm, we needed to make that happen – while baby #2 wasn’t due until October 19, I had a feeling he/she would come early.  Remlinger Farms opened a week before the others, the last weekend in September, and we happily chose our pumpkins, went on a hay ride, and rode the train.  And just in time.

October 2 was another gorgeous sunny day.  I spent Isaac’s nap time making apple butter and apple crumble, and when he woke up, we headed outside to play in the leaves and dig up some garden dirt with his construction vehicles.  At around 4:00pm, I noticed what appeared to be my water leaking… disconcerting, since I was determined to have baby #2 at the birth center vs. a hospital, and I knew that my water breaking would start the clock ticking on how long they would give me to go into labor naturally.  Still, I had no contractions, so maybe it was something else.  At 4:30pm I nonchalantly texted Shawn, “ETA?”  “5:30pm,” he responded.

[Shawn]  At about 4:30 on October 2nd, I received a text from Bethanie.  “ETA?” it read.  I actually felt a little anxiety getting ready to see the text thinking it might be a “$#@!, get your ass home right now! This show is on!”  But it was rather something much more typical.

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Isaac and I finished playing and went inside (with no small protest) to start dinner.  Shawn arrived as dinner was going onto the table, and I told him what was up.  He supervised dinner while I called the midwife.  The midwife wanted me to come in to get checked, “shall we meet at 7:15pm? I want to pick my daughter up from soccer practice.”  The conversation, the whole laid-back pace of the day, felt surreal after the frantic start of my first labor.  I ate dinner, did my hair and makeup, and headed over to the birth center.  Shawn stayed behind to get Isaac in bed.

At the birth center, the midwife verified that baby would be arriving that night, and gave me a dose of antibiotics for group B strep.  Still having had no contractions, I called Shawn to give him the news, “I’m already 6cm dilated.”  “What?!” he choked out.  We called Isaac’s nanny to come stay with him, and I drove home to pick up Shawn.

[Shawn] I get a call a short while later and she tells me she’s 6cm dilated.  “@#$!” I think, “This show is on!”  Bethanie confirms with the midwife that it’s safe for her to come pick me up while we wait for our nanny to arrive and look after Isaac.  I could have gone to the birth center in a separate vehicle, but we wanted to go home in one vehicle with our new baby, if possible.

Shortly later, back at the birth center, the antibiotics needed an hour to start working so the midwife advised against walking or anything else that might hurry things along.  We settled down to watch a movie, but we were both exhausted and had trouble paying attention.  We returned to the birthing room around 9:30pm to find the tub full and candles lit.  I climbed into the tub, and Shawn lay down on the bed to read.  Finally around 10:30pm I decided I might as well try to sleep and started to climb out of the tub… that’s when things got real.

[Shawn] After we arrived back at the birth center we decided to settle in for some “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”  It might instead have been called “Darkness with a Chance of Mead” given the ancient CRT TV with screechy speakers paired with a DVD player made in about 1482.  We made it through a little of that before we both grew bored and we retired to our room.

Bethanie relaxed in the crazy-big tub and I hopped into the bed and spent some time on my Kindle with the Game of Thrones novels.  I mean, Tyrion had just killed <SPOILERS REDACTED> so I had some pages to read, childbirth notwithstanding.  About an hour later the real story began.

The first contraction hit me, and then almost immediately came a second, and I quickly sank back into the tub.  Shawn came over to help me breath through them, kneeling by the edge of the tub, rubbing my shoulders and arms during contractions and my lower back between.  The student midwife moved over to time contractions, and I concentrated on trying to practice the pain management techniques we had learned, breathing through the contractions and then trying to relax each muscle group in between.  The contractions never became regular… a minute apart, then four, then two… they were all over the place, with contractions ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes long.  Still, we settled into a rhythm – breath, rub, relax – punctuated a few times by a frantic call out to Shawn the few times he took his hands off me.

Transition brought more intense contractions.  I remember telling Shawn, “I need a new technique – I’m starting to panic,” but my ability to formulate a plan was gone.  At this point the assistant midwife spoke up, guiding me through breathing into the pain.  At times I lost my mantra, and Shawn’s voice came in, “Open, open, open” (an improvement to my last labor’s mantra of “Fuck, fuck, fuck”).  I clung to his voice like to a buoy.

[Shawn] During labor I practiced all the massage techniques we’d learned.  I reminded Bethanie about her “open” mantra, which was way more PG than our NC-17 first birth.  I massaged and massaged and massaged, to the point where my muscles were shaking during some of the peak contractions.

When the urge to push came, I went with it.  It was a completely different experience than my first (hospital) labor, when I was told to fight my early impulses to push, then ended up with an epidural so never experienced what it felt like to push.  This time I just followed my body.  As the contractions got stronger, it was a tremendous feeling of relief to feel the baby move down, and I said as much to Shawn.  “She, huh?”  he said, picking up on a crucial pronoun (we had left the gender to be a surprise).  “That’s what I’m going with,” I replied.

Things only got more intense when the baby started to crown.  Oh. My. God, did that hurt.  It felt like forever that they kept telling me, “just a little bit more.”  The worst were the long waits between contractions, which the midwives assured me would help minimize tearing.  Finally, after a crazy long push with them assuring me once again, “just a little bit more,” I demanded (to their laughter), “How can there be any more?!”  They had me reach down and feel the top of the head.  “Come on baby girl!” I urged.  Finally, a couple more pushes and the head was out and I could breathe for a minute.  The midwives conferred for a minute – the cord was around the baby’s neck and too short to pull free.  Since I was in the water, they decided the best approach was to somersault the baby’s body through the cord.  I listened, somewhere in the back of mind a little intellectually concerned (cord around the baby’s neck = bad, right?) but emotionally in complete confidence that they knew what they were doing.  One more push and the baby’s shoulders and body were out – the midwife executed a smooth somersault and quickly brought the baby up on my belly.  Fully of love, I held the newest edition to our family and touched its face.  It was 1:12am.

[Shawn] I grew worried when I saw the student midwife note that the umbilical cord was wrapped around our baby’s neck.  I grew more worried when I could tell she was unsure about how to resolve it.  That’s when the actual midwife stepped in and executed an expert in-bath somersault and untangled our little one.

A full minute must have passed before I remembered.  “What is it?” I asked.  The midwife moved the baby’s legs away and Shawn announced, “It’s a boy!”  “No way,” I replied, “I was so sure it was a girl!”

[Shawn] While I would have been totally thrilled with a girl, a small voice inside me rejoiced about knowing how to deal with boy parts and knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with boy parts wanting to meet my little girl at some point.

Our child rested on Bethanie’s chest in the bath for a while, then the midwives asked if I would hold him so they could attend to Bethanie.  I received him in my arms and while looking at his face the name “Micah” shouted in my mind.  It was a profound moment for me as we hadn’t settled on a boy’s name (we really thought it would be a girl) and Micah was a name we had never discussed, never mind put on our short list.  But it felt completely right.

I moved out of the tub to deliver the placenta, then to the bed.  I was bleeding significantly so they gave me a shot.  When I went to use the bathroom a half hour later, the blood was still coming in a steady stream.  Hearing the concern in the student midwife’s voice, I was again intellectually concerned: “I have two boys to take care of now,” I remembered telling her.  The midwife came and pressed down hard on my uterus… goddamn, that hurt.  Then back to bed and another shot in the other thigh.  This one thankfully did the trick.

We were both so sure that it was a girl, we’d never finalized on a boy name.  “When I first held him, a name just came to me,” said Shawn, and told me his inspiration.  I looked at him doubtfully… “that name isn’t even on our list.”

[Shawn] After the midwives had stemmed Bethanie’s bleeding and I knew our newborn was healthy and safe, my exhaustion set in.  I had been up for almost 24 hours and I gratefully stole a half hour nap on a tiny couch in our room.  That was enough to refresh me for our drive home… a much more confident one than Isaac’s birth where my first thought was, “they’re letting us leave with this?!?” This time it was just a simple, “here we go.”

The one downside of a birthing center is that it is not staffed for long stays.  Once baby boy and I had checked out okay, and I had eaten, we packed up and headed home.  We crawled into bed at 4:00am absolutely exhausted, only to get up to introduce the baby to a very excited Isaac the next morning.  It was two days before Shawn and I finally had a chance to sit down alone together and talk names – and then joyfully introduced to the world Micah Archer Thomas, born on October 3, 2012 at 1:12am after four hours of labor, weighing in at 8lbs 1.5oz and measuring 21 inches.

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Oh, my child, where to begin?  You. are. awesome.  You’re now brightening our lives with big toothless smiles, laughs, and “conversations.”  Nights can still be a bit rough, but after a 5:00am gassy session, when you look up at your daddy with a big grin and some oooohs! and nnn-gaaas!, he can’t help but encourage you when mommy would prefer you to go back to sleep.  You’re getting better at nights now.  Usually you’ll sleep 7pm – 12am, then up again at 3am and 5am, before finally getting up for the day around 7am.  Naps if we are lucky are one 45 minute morning nap, and two 1.5-2 hour naps

You sure do need to sleep a lot, but fight it like mad.  I swear 90% of our time is now spent rocking, pacing, jiggling, shushing you to sleep.  These sessions usually involve endless frustration as I watch you blissfully close your eyes, and 5 minutes later, there you are wide eyed and watching.  I’m trying to convince you if you just let this sleep business happen quickly, we can spend that time playing instead.

You do love to play.  Your favorite games are “conversations,” cheek-kisses, bringing your hands to your mouth, and push-ups off mommy’s chest to see the world.

You also are definitely your own man.  You let out a solid yell when you are not getting what you want.  Not a cry – a yell – hey!  Pay attention to me!  It could mean you are ready for a nap, or that you want daddy’s attention.  We appreciate the direction.

You also have me absolutely terrified.  Three times now we have headed to the hospital because you have stopped breathing for 20-30 seconds and turned blue.  Don’t. do. that.  This last time was the worst, when I thought for a minute you had died.  You see, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with you.  I don’t want another baby, I want you!  I want to continue to smile, talk, laugh, cuddle, shush you, just you.  I want to watch you grow up.  I can’t wait until you discover bugs, and apple cider, and football.  I need to have our first fight, hear you give me attitude, as you are guaranteed to do given your strong personality.  I need to look up at you as you tower over me.  I need you, to grow up.

Happy 2 months (well, 10 weeks!), Isaac.  Now let’s go for 3 months and many more…

I’m sitting here typing this post in the car, parked in the JoAnn Fabrics parking lot. With the engine running.

When Shawn and I talked about having a baby, we were pretty specific about our ideas on parenting. We both have friends that let their children limit their lives… They rarely go out, and talk about how they can’t get anything done.

Not us. We were going to get *our* child used to sleeping through the thick of things. Sure enough, we put him down to nap right in the middle of the living room, kept a radio going, and lived life close to everyday volume. We went out to restaurants and stores immediately, worrying only about how to discreetly feed him when he got hungry. And don’t forget, we bought our tickets to Europe before he was even born, because, you know, a young baby will just sleep as we sightsee.

We were quite clear on the type of baby we would have. Isaac, it turns out, is not that baby.

We learned a lot more about Isaac during his recent hospital stay than just health issues. Suddenly in the relatively lower stimulation of the four walls of his hospital room, Isaac was sleeping all the time… Up to 2 hours at a time during the day, awake only 2 hours, then back again. What’s more, he was sleeping dramatically better at night.

You see, Isaac is not *our* baby. He is a completely independent individual with his own needs, temperament, and personality. And his royal highness has decreed that naps are serious business worthy of respect.

And so the crunchy Seattle environmentalist who recycles, composts, grows veggies, and cloth diapers finds herself sitting in a running car in the parking lot to respect the sanctity of the in-progress nap. This madness can not continue, but given his recent scare, I’m apt to indulge him a little longer. I’m sure we’ll get to a balance sooner or later.

In the meantime, we’re really enjoying learning about this new very strong personality who has joined our family… Where he finds joy, wonder; what makes him angry, frustrated; and how our lives can merge.

And now I need to decide whether to actually go into JoAnn’s, or turn around and drive back home. That’s 15 more minutes on the nap…

I tried singing to Isaac recently, and found I could only remember the first verse to any children’s song.  On the other hand, I was able to sing to him the full versions of “Born to Be Wild,” “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” and “The Day the Music Died.”

We sent in the paperwork for Isaac’s passport today, in preparation for a September visit to daddy’s homeland in the great white north. 

True to our oh-so-brief experience, everything with a newborn takes much more time and is much harder than you think it should be.  It took us three different stops to find someone who knew what the hell they were doing in taking infant passport photos.  Word to you mothers:  don’t mess around, go directly to Costco.  (Though a tip o’ the hat to the guys at Fred Meyer, who had a great attitude despite failing.  And a wag o’ the finger to the clerks at Rite Aid, who muttered from two aisles over without looking at me, “I don’t know how.”  There is a reason that store is going under.)  The secret is a carseat with a white towell or blanket over it.  We bought the blanket at Costco.  Waking him up proved to be a separate challenge.

We cursed our way through rush hour traffic to hit the passport office before it closed, expecting a close call getting the passport back in time for our trip, even with expedited shipping.  We instead learned that the office was open a half hour later than expected, and that a passport was not needed for land travel to Canada.  Daddy research fail. 

On the plus side, we spared ourselves a similar rush and potentially much more disasterous consequences in two months when we travel to France.  With a three month old.  That’s right.  We recently had friends travel to Europe with a four month old, and it opened a new horizon for us.  I polled my momma online chat group, and got a consensus, “you won’t be getting any sleep, you might as well not get any sleep in France.” 

Wiser words never spoken.  Tickets booked.  And now we’ll have his passport in plenty of time.  🙂

“Life expands and contracts in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

This blog was inspired by the birth of our son, Isaac, who entered our lives a year and a day after we pledged our love to one another our wedding day.  Opening one’s heart to another human being creates an instant vulnerability, and requires tremendous faith.  Trusting your heart to a mate is scary.  Trusting the world when holding your child in your arms is downright terrifying.  To do either is nothing short of courageous.   This blog is a place for us to record to the thousand courageous acts, small and large, that give our lives meaning and richness.